Pondering the Wrong Question

Teshuvah and vidui[1] is not just about getting the record straight with God. It has to do with you and your relationships. During Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur, we read 40 lines in the Al Chet and most of them are sins we do to one another. By confessing specifically the types of sins we commit to one another, we can air out the mold in our lives, and gives us an opportunity to turn from that sin.synagogue_chaux-de-fonds

A young man sat pondering the page in his siddur, trying to get himself to say with sincerity, “I hereby forgive all those who have angered or bothered me, or have sinned against me,” until he felt a warm, gentle hand on his shoulder. He looked up to see a wise, older man, who said, “Before you ponder whether you forgive them, perhaps you should ponder whether they should forgive you[2].”

We are not told what Nineveh sinned, but we are given a glimpse into the sin of Jonah. While he asked for G-d’s mercy on himself in the belly of the beast, but he wanted G-d to withhold this same mercy from Nineveh. Jonah was the most successful prophet in the Tanach. When he spoke, people’s lives were changed; every other prophet spoke until they were blue in the face with little to no effect. In fact, Jonah was so against the tikkin of Nineveh, he ran from G-d, and twice he said he would rather die.

Jonah did not want Nineveh to repent. He wanted the city razed to the ground. In face, the fourth chapter says he took a comfortable shaded seat under a castor tree to watch the show. Was he hoping for a laser-light show like Sodom and Gomorrah? Probably. The only thing he was missing was extra-buttery popcorn, a large pop, and a date with a cute girl from Rosh Pina. On the second day, Jonah was still waiting to witness the city’s destruction, but G-d sent a worm to blight the tree and it no longer afforded the man shade and he suffered under the blazing heat of the sun. He lamented over the tree’s demise and that caught Hashem’s attention.

And Hashem said: ‘You have pity on the gourd, for which you have not labored, neither made it grow, which came up in a night, and perished in a night; and I should not should have pity on Nineveh, that great city, where more than 120,000 persons live?[3]

Scripture does not say of the people of Nineveh, “And G-d saw their sackcloth and their fasting,” but, “And G-d saw their works, that they turned from their evil way;[4]” and in the prophets it is said, “And rend your heart and not your garments.[5][6]

I have seen Facebook messages that state something like, “If I have offended or hurt you, please forgive me.” This is not the proper method to right the wrongs you have done to another. This is simply a reflection of one of two things: it’s either a result of our lazy self-absorbed “a click on a like button is my good deed for the day” mentality pervasive in our society, or it’s an unwillingness to humble one’s self to admit one’s wrongdoing. How important is this issue? Messiah deals with this head-on in the book of Matthew.

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift[7].

If you are not willing to confront your sin and express your heartfelt remorse to the ones you have wronged, you will get the opportunity to have Hashem expose tour sin to you at Judgment. The choice is yours. Personally, I think getting it over with now will be a lot less painful.

Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are pardoned[8].

God once asked, “So what do you think of My world?”
The wise man said, “Everywhere I look I see that everything shines with Your glory!”

This also includes the faces of those who are our enemies.

[1] Confession

[2] Rabbi Avraham Lipskier

[3] Jonah 4:10

[4] Jonah 3:10

[5] Joel 2:13

[6] b.Taanis 15a

[7] Matthew 5:23-24

[8] Psalm 32:1


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